Jan. 23 (UPI) -- Prosecutors in San Francisco will no longer seek money bail for criminal defendants who are deemed to pose little risk to public safety under a new policy instituted by the city.
Newly elected San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin announced the implementation of the policy Wednesday, fulfilling a campaign pledge to base pretrial detention on "risk" rather than "wealth and poverty."
"For years I've been fighting to end this discriminatory and unsafe approach to pretrial detention," Boudin said in a statement. "From this point forward, pretrial detention will be based on public safety, not on wealth."
Under the new policy, while prosecutors can seek to hold defendants without bail in serious felony cases such as those involving acts of violence or sexual assaults, they have been instructed to no longer seek money bail for suspects assessed by an algorithm-based system to pose little or no risk to public safety or for flight.
"By replacing money bail with a risk-based system, people who are safe to be released get released quickly with appropriate, non-monetary conditions, and those who pose a serious threat to public safety are detained, regardless of their wealth," Boudin said.
Critics say cash bail is highly discriminatory toward low-income people and minorities. Research cited by Boudin found that in San Francisco, black defendants pay more than $120 per capita annually in non-refundable bail fees compared to $10 per capita per year for white residents, trapping some in a cycle of debt even if they are never convicted of a crime.
Former California Gov. Jerry Brown in August signed a statewide law eliminating money bail as a condition of release, but its implementation was put on hold after a petition seeking a referendum on the issue gathered enough signatures to put the question to a vote in November 2020.
The referendum effort was backed by a coalition of bail industry associations.